Pak­istan:

Con­voy of buses was on its way to Shi­ite holy sites in Iran.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Sal­man Ma­sood

At least 19 Shi­ite pil­grims, in­clud­ing four women, are killed when their con­voy of three buses is struck by a car bomb.

IS­LAM­ABAD — At least 19 Shi­ite pil­grims, in­clud­ing four women, were killed Sun­day when their con­voy of three buses in south­west­ern Pak­istan was struck by a car bomb, of­fi­cials said. At least 25 other peo­ple were wounded in the at­tack in the Mas­tung district of Baluchis­tan province.

There were con­flict­ing re­ports about whether the at­tack on the Shi­ites was car­ried out by a sui­cide bomber, or if the car bomb was det­o­nated by re­mote con­trol.

Ear­lier Sun­day, government of­fi­cials said they had dis­cov­ered the bod­ies of 21 tribal po­lice of­fi­cers who were kid­napped by the Tal­iban last week in north­west­ern Pak­istan.

The pil­grims were on their way to Shi­ite holy sites in neigh­bor­ing Iran when the at­tack oc­curred. A pickup truck filled with ex­plo­sives was det­o­nated as the pil­grims’ con­voy passed by Sun­day morn­ing. The ex­plo­sion de­stroyed one bus and dam­aged the other two.

The wounded were taken to a hospi­tal in the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, Quetta, of­fi­cials said.

“Most of the dead bod­ies are com­pletely burned,” said Maj. Nadir Ali, a re­tired army of­fi­cer and a se­nior leader in the eth­nic Hazara com­mu­nity.

Ali said the pil­grims had trav­eled from dif­fer­ent cities and stayed in Quetta overnight be­fore em­bark­ing on the 500-mile jour­ney to Za­hedan, Iran.

No group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack, but Shi­ite Mus­lims have re­peat­edly been sin­gled out by ex­trem­ist Sunni mil­i­tants be­long­ing to the banned group Lashkar-eJhangvi, which has links to Pak­istani Tal­iban mil­i­tants in the tribal ar­eas.

Pak­istan’s Shi­ites have long com­plained that de­spite re­peated as­sur­ances, the government has of­fered in­ad­e­quate se­cu­rity and failed to pro­tect them. In Baluchis­tan province, sec­tar­ian at­tacks have of­ten been di­rected at the eth­nic Hazaras, a Per­sian-speak­ing Shi­ite mi­nor­ity. More than 300 Shi­ites, many of them Hazaras, have been killed in Baluchis­tan since 2008, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights Watch.

Ali, the Hazara leader, said the Mas­tung district was a par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous point on the trip to Iran be­cause the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had a strong pres­ence there.In the fall of 2011, mil­i­tants there dragged 26 Hazara men and boys from a bus headed to Iran and ex­e­cuted them.

In north­west­ern Pak­istan, 21 po­lice of­fi­cers who had been cap­tured by Tal­iban mil­i­tants were found shot to death late Satur­day night on the out­skirts of Pe­shawar, government of­fi­cials said Sun­day.

AR­SHAD BUTT / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­cu­rity forces gather at the site of a bomb­ing in Quetta, Pak­istan, on Sun­day. A ve­hi­cle packed with ex­plo­sives rammed into a bus car­ry­ing Shi­ite Mus­lim pil­grims in south­west Pak­istan on Sun­day, killing at least 19 peo­ple.

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